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New Saudi Ambassador Faces Challenges January 31, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Uncategorized.
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Adel al-Jubeir, an aide to King Abdullah, will replace Prince Turki al-Faisal, who resigned last month after just over a year in the job.

Source: news.bbc.co.uk

When Prince Turki al- Faisal resigned his post last month, the media buzzed- or a better word might be “hummed”- with speculation, primarily because the resignation of the former Saudi intelligence chief turned ambassador was unexpected and out of character for representatives of the secretive Kingdom. The Saudis are dealing with a number of problematic domestic issues, one of which is a potential schism among the Islamic faithful. The Kingdom is at pains to deny that Iran has any influence among the Saudi Shia , who are “proud of their nationalism”, according to a recent statement by the Saudi cleric Sheikh Hassan al-Saffar, who believes that certain Shia clerics , especially in Iran, are using their authority to incite Shia.

Prince Turki al-Faisal trotted out the familiar story of wanting to spend more time with his family to explain his resignation. If that is not true, or not the whole story, then it is hard to get around the conclusion that al-Faisal and Riyadh differ on matters of policy.

The new ambassador comes to his position at a challenging time. The Saudis cannot afford to alienate their increasingly critical internal critics. Nor can they easily rid themselves of the American military presence in the country. With talk of alternative fuels graduating from the fringe of American political life to the legislative mainstream, the Saudis will feel pressure to keep production up, and prices moderate. On the other hand, they cannot afford to alienate the other major oil producers or to exhaust their supplemental capacity. On top of all these dilemmas, the Saudis are trying to contain their own explosive demographics, and will have to reserve an increasing number of jobs now held by expatriates for their own citizens, a process called “Saudization.”

Adel al-Jubeir, educated at North Texas University and at Georgetown, has his work cut out for him. The Saudi and American governments were much closer when the U.S. was less ambivalent about supporting the Islamic cause in Afghanistan. Then, there was a broad ideological consensus against what both powers perceived to be “godless communism”. With the spread of schism and sectarianism in the broader Islamic world, neither side’s interests coincide as neatly as they did sometime ago. And while the conversation about the Saudi record on human rights has so far remained in the American political background, there is no reason to believe that it will always be so. In fact, there is every reason to believe otherwise, as this 2007 summary by Human Rights Watch indicates.

Al-Jubeir comes into his position at the most critical of junctures in U.S. Saudi relations. Despite the advantages of strategic alliances to the elites, and some would argue, to the populations of both countries, shearing forces are at work that could turn the situation in any direction from what might be called the unstable equilibrium of the present.

Tags: relationshp | names | human rights | AMBASSADOR | Saudi Arabia | Saud-U.S. Alliance | Politics

Lessons from an Embargo: Cuba’s Recycling Expertise January 30, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Environmental Policy.
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Ariel Rodriguez makes new keys from old ones. He shapes them on a 1953 key-copying machine that he bought broken and fixed with parts from a grain mill. He shines them on a key polisher he rebuilt with a washing-machine motor.

Source: archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com

This story from the Florida-Sun Sentinel tells of an expertise untapped. When the decades-long U.S. trade embargo of Cuba finally ends, there may be plenty to learn from the ordinary people of that country. Over the years, as the story indicates, they have become past masters at the art of recycling.

The Cuban government seeks to promote recycling as good for the planet, which is undoubtedly is, and not to draw attention to recycling as grim necessity- which it also is. The Party line, in this case, is like most party lines the world over- a grain of truth represented as a diamond. Nonetheless, the truth is that ordinary Cubans have a whole wealth of expertise that is extremely valuable and takes recycling far beyond the American vision of it as sorting glass from paper. One hopes that somewhere in Cuba historians, reporters, and cultural anthropologists are trying to capture what will certainly be a body of knowledge in future demand, all over the world. Wouldn’t it be a fine irony if at the end of the day, Cuba’s contribution to the family of nations was a Guerrilla recycling manual that helped the rest of the world cut down on its waste and reuse some of its overabundant trash?

Tags: washing-machine | shines | polisher | key-copying | shapes | rebuilt | parts | ones | mill | makes | Keys | grain | Rodriguez | Politics | CUBANS | Cuba

Google Earth Reveals Korean Missile Location: A Technomuddle January 30, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Uncategorized.
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In the satellite service provided by U.S. search portal “Google,” a closely-taken photo of an anti-aircraft missile position of Korea’s air force is posted. Since the photo is showing part of the key defense networks of Seoul and the metropolitan area against North Korea, they are raising a security issue.

Source: english.donga.com

The issue of censorship in the world is more complicated because of technology, as is illustrated in this story. The location and deployment of South Korean anti-aircraft weapons is clearly designed ( and in the story, officially acknowledged to be) a state secret of a very high order, yet the resolution in the Google Earth shots is good enough to allow anyone to see not “only the exact location of the military unit but also how many positions of anti-air craft missiles exist and where those missiles are deployed within the unit.”

Google Earth has posted images that the South Korean military has found objectionable before, but since military planners have no control over commercial satellite images, the South Korean military acknowledges that they have no clear way to proceed in this matter. Nor does Google Earth have any clear way to know what images will be objected to by the various security services. Indeed , what we have here is a dilemma in security policy, and all the images are sharply resolved, the same cannot be said of our ways of dealing with the challenges and security dilemmas such widely available technology poses. The proper course of action is far from clear: the images are impossible to censor except at source, and would we really want various security officials working hand in glove with Google, to determine which pictures should appear on the servers?  This picture is a true technomuddle: there is no easy answer.

Tags: closely-taken | showing | SERVICE | Security | Satellite | raising | provided | posted | portal | photo | networks | Missile | metropolitan | DEPLOYED | Defense | ANTI-AIRCRAFT | Seoul | Politics | North Korea

Googlepealago:China Censorship Bad for Business January 29, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Coporate Policies.
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Google’s decision to censor its search engine in China was bad for the company, its founders admitted yesterday.

Google, launched in 1998 by two Stanford University dropouts, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, was accused of selling out and reneging on its “Don’t be evil” motto when it launched in China in 2005. The company modified the version of its search engine in China to exclude controversial topics such as the Tiananmen Square massacre or the Falun Gong movement, provoking a backlash in its core western markets.

Jane Martinson, The Guardian

Finally, the Google founders have admitted that conforming to the wishes of Chinese government censors in the designing search engines was not such a good idea, if only because the decision to build in censorship caused a Western backlash. What in fact is happening is that Google, by agreeing to government restrictions on what Internet sites can be viewed in certain countries, is creating a Web equivalent to the Gulag Archipelago, the network of scattered areas of Soviet moral darkness so well described years ago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

The “bad for business” argument is weak, although probably true. What would be better is for Brin and Page to take a firm stand against such actions in the future, and to take corrective action on Google China. Would Google be completely excluded from censoring countries were the company to oppose them? Probably. And that would create work-arounds, the search engine equivalents of Samizdat, unrest among internet users in the information gulags, and a massive groundswell of support, both for Google and for an end to censorship in the “core Western markets.” That kind of defiance would not only earn the respect of users world wide. It would also be consistent with Google’s “Don’t be evil” corporate mantra.

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Georgia Foiled Uranium Sale January 25, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Terrorism.
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Georgian special services have foiled an attempt by a Russian citizen to sell weapons-grade uranium for $1 million (508,000 pounds) to agents he thought were radical Islamists, a senior Interior Ministry official said on Thursday.

The official said Oleg Khintsagov, a resident of Russia’s North Ossetia region, was arrested on February 1 2006 and a closed court soon after convicted him to 8 1/2 years in prison.

Source: today.reuters.co.uk

Curiouser, and curiouser, as Lewis Carroll might have said, are the actions of the Russians. Apparently, the Russian government was notified about the sting, set up by the CIA and the Georgian security service. They acquired 3.5 oz. of weapons grade uranium from Mr. Khintsagov, and at several stages in the investigation invited the Russians to participate. They did not, and have been reticent about the origins of the uranium since.

3.5 oz. of uranium ( 99.2 grams) is not enough uranium to make even a small nuclear weapon. At the Georgian black market rate, a Hiroshima sized bomb would cost over a billion dollars.

The seller claimed to have access to more uranium-235.

Tags: Ossetia | Khintsagov | YEARS | weapons-grade | Uranium | services | SENIOR | says | sale | RESIDENT | RADICAL | official | foiled | court | CONVICTED | Closed | Citizen | attempt | arrested | Agent | Tbilisi | Russian | Russia | Politics | oleg | MINISTRY | islamist | Interior | Georgian | Georgia | February

Not Funny: A Nice White House Press Corps January 21, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Journalism.
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The White House press corps last week found itself embroiled in controversy — a controversy over its efforts to avoid controversy at an event whose guests include President Bush.

Source: washingtonpost.com

One of the purposes of the White House press corps is to provide a kind of scathingly loyal opposition. Journalists who do not question, investigate, and otheewise trouble the Chief are not doing their job, and as recent failures of critical journalism (think WMD in Iraq) prove, complacent journalists do not serve the public either. Traditionally, the annual press corps dinner has been a venue for at least a gentle roasting of the sitting president. According to this story in the Washington Post, Stephen Colbert hurt the presidential feelings last year, and this year everyone wants to make sure that Bush doesn’t feel like throwing his toys out of the pram. Solution? Replace Colbert with Rich Little.

Little is, of course, a great comedian. If he were a rock band, he would rank right up there with the Beatles. And he won’t mention Iraq, not because he was restrained from doing so, but because he doesn’t find any humor in the subject. His signature imitations have always been more or less apolitical. Content does not signify – Little can imitate anybody, with hilarious results. He is perhaps a fitting choice for a press corps whose output is usually innocuous, if not downright nice.And that is not funny-not in the least.

Tags: guest | embroiled | efforts | dinner | corps | controversy | avoid | president | Politics | nice | Las Vegas | impression | Carson | assured

Chinese Censorship: Internet Companies Respond January 20, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Uncategorized.
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Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Vodafone have announced an agreement with human rights groups, internet freedom activists and others to establish a set of principles covering how they deal with censorship and other restrictions that could harm human rights in China and elsewhere.

Source: ft.com

This is good news, but it might not be good enough news. A coalition between companies and nongovernmental organizations provides both monitoring and potential financial clout against censorious governments, but there is no immediate leverage. The major advantage of the coalition is that the companies will be able to link censorship issues to broader issues. It might be more difficult for the Chinese and others to negotiate with Google without at least mentioning censorship.

Clearly, the companies are responding to public protest over the exposure of their policies in China, but the search engine giants are also trying to forestall any more restrictive legislation. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) reintroduced the Global Online Freedom Act, which would prohibit locating search engine companies in censoring countries and prevent the companies from altering results on the request of governments, as Google appears to have done with its recently established Chinese language engine that expunges results on “Tibet” and other search terms. Yahoo handed over e-mails that helped to imprison Chinese dissidents.

Tags: Rights | restrictions | respond | principles | internet | harm | Groups | freedom | Establish | critics | covering | companies | Censorship | announced | agreement | activists | Yahoo | vodafone | Politics | Microsoft | China

CIA Stole Dr. Zhivago for Publication:Pasternak Won Nobel January 19, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship.
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CIA and British Intelligence agents forced a passenger plane to land in Malta in 1957, to go on board and steal the manuscript of the banned Russian novel ‘Dr Zhivago’, which was subsequently published and awarded a Nobel Prize.

Source: maltastar.com

In 1957, the Cold War and its psyops were in full swing, and the CIA, along with its British counterpart, were eager to embarrass the Soviets as often as possible. When the intelligence agencies learned that a copy of Pasternak’s manuscript was in a passenger’s suitcase, they arranged to have the plane stopped on a pretext at the Malta airport, where the plane was grounded for two hours while the spooks copied Pasternak’s book and then replaced it where they found it.

The story gets better. The Nobel Prize Committee stipulates that literary works be first published in their original language, so the CIA arranged for the book to look as if it had been printed in Russia by using paper that would be difficult to trace and commonly used Russian fonts. Members of the Academy were surprised to receive a copy of the book in time to consider it,

Under pressure from the Soviets, Pasternak ultimately refused the award.

Tags: subsequently | STEAL | published | passenger | NOVEL | MANUSCRIPT | forced | banned | AWARDED | Agent | Russian | Prize | Politics | nobel | malta | Intelligence | Central | British

Chavez Silences TV Station January 18, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship.
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As Chavez accelerates his country’s shift toward “21st-century socialism,” a decision not to renew RCTV’s broadcast license is among the government’s more dramatic steps, and one that has caused serious concern among free-press advocates. While Venezuelan officials have accused the 54-year-old station of having collaborated with organizers of a 2002 coup against Chavez, the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York, the Organization of American States and the Catholic Church have warned that press freedoms in Venezuela are in danger.

Juan Forero, Washington Post

Hugo Chavez has gone too far in attempting to silence his critics. If the government of Venezuela has persuasive evidence that people at Radio Caracas Television did indeed collaborate in the 2002 coup attempt, then it is a government responsibility to bring the charges forward. A whole institution, especially one that predates Chavez’s ascent to power, is being punished in an act of retribution against a collective. RCT was not founded as a front organization for coup plotters, and it is certainly no accident that the station is well known for its acerbic, not to say vicious, critiques of the Chavez government. When a such large number of groups across the political, ideological, and social spectrum raise the alarm of retaliatory censorship against a government policy, the authors have the duty to respond to those allegations with something more than a reassertion of their opinions on the matter.

Dissenting media voices still exist in a Venezuela where Chavez holds a firm grip on power. Like many acts of public silencing, this one appears to be gratuitous. The Chavez government, of course, is sovereign,and has all of the rights and privileges to oppress its people. Chavez will probably say that the coalition of organizations and states condemning the silence of RCTV are at worst imperialist meddlers or enemies of the state, and at best well meaning but ignorant or naive Venezuelans. That set of arguments dismisses all debate. Chavez, who claims to be looking for a new model of socialism and has done remarkable good for the poor of his country, should think again. This kind of action belies his claim to a new and better form of government, and makes even his well wishers elsewhere in the world pause to consider whether what he will ultimately bring to the country is indeed improvement, or only a form of populist repression, muddling along toward dictatorship.

Tags: Rctv | Carias | Anti-Chavez | ORGANIZERS | Journalism | host | decision | Venezuela | tv | television | pulling | president | Politics | Plug | New York | hugo | chavez | Caracas

Progressive Network to Bush: All Politics is Local January 18, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Resistance, War Policy.
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As state legislators grow increasingly opposed to an Iraq war that is stretching and weakening the National Guard and draining desperately needed funds at home, activists and legislators are launching a 50-state legislative response to stop President Bush’s Iraq escalation plan.

Katrina Vanden Heuval. The Nation (1-16-07)

One of the reasons for the nearly complete route of progressive thinking in the era of Bush II and before is that conservatives and neocons have been much better organized at the state and local level. Those opposed to current U.S policies have been slow to realize this, partly out of apathy and partly from a deep seated and wrong belief that some issues and candidates are not worth promoting in some places because they are bound to lose. I

If Irving Krystal and others on the neocon right had believed the same, instead of toiling away in their formerly obscure journals for the better part of three decades, their political representatives would never have come to power. The liberal opposition had finally made a belated but sorely needed start toward the rightful appropriation of some-not all, but some- of the organizational genius that has for a long time now, been almost the exclusive intellectual and organizational property of the right. Today, several organizations are joining together with the specific purpose of increasing the role of progressive state legislatures in countering Bush, and in encouraging those legislators to use their popular support to comment on national issues.

Not surprisingly, the first rallying point will be a concert of opposition to Bush’s Iraq escalation, and will argue the very good point that removing the restrictions on National Guard units will have a direct and detrimental effect on the availability of trained and dedicated citizens to respond to crises in their own regions, and that citizens will become increasingly wary of enrolling in a Guard where the terms of service can change almost overnight, not in response to a passing crisis, but as a stopgap for failed national policies. will create personnel problems for the National Guard in the long run by discouraging enlistment and reenlistment.And that will decrease our ability to respond to events both nationally and internationally. T

State and local governments can have a dramatic effect on world politics, as Matt Singer of the Progressive States Network claims. Citing the examplesof apartheid and more recently of Darfur, Singer believes that the states and locales can change the national debate on Iraq as well, but only with active citizen participation in bringing the campaign to change our policies to the counties, cities, and states where we all live.The emphasis on local and state governments is not entirely new, as the numbers of extant organizations now collaborating in the venture illustrates. But the left appears to have tapped a creative genius for exerting influence and using connections, and the power of this broadly collaborative spirit has yet to be tested. The best part of this effort is that it will allow volunteers to do something of national and perhaps world significance by asserting themselves in the not so distant state and municipal regions, and to advocate causes to people whose jobs are dependent on , among other things, the good will and trust of those volunteers. The legislators have a vested interest in listening to strong local voter lobby. truly, “all politics is local.” Karl Rove and company stole the spirit of that sentiment and took it to his organizational heart. It is time for the rest of us to reclaim it (minus the skullduggery of Rove and the gerrymandering of Delay) and use it to build organizations equally powerful, with better ideas.

Tags: weakening | stretching | Response | opposed | needed | LEGISLATORS | LAUNCHING | increasingly | funds | escalation | DRAINING | desperately | activists | progressive | president | Politics | Network | Iraq | GUARD | Bush